I sat in the bookstore (the Internet wasn’t as good back then) and I’d grab SparkNotes off the shelf and read them right there on the bookstore couch. Two things would happen (three if you count the strange looks I received from store personnel wondering why some guy was reading SparkNotes all evening): (1) I would feel empty inside, as if I were missing out on something great; (2) I would long to reread the book in its entirety.
The same thing happened as I watched the Ender’s Game movie. I teach Ender’s Game each February, reading it multiple times with my 9th grade classes. It’s one of my favorite books, so when I learned it was being made into a movie, I started counting down the days until its release, understanding that I would probably be disappointed. And I was.
The movie is the SparkNotes version of the book. There’s no character development, no sense of Ender’s isolation, no sense of battle school difficulty, no sense of the humanness and complexity of Ender. The fight scenes aren’t very good. There’s no Shen. Bernard doesn’t get his arm broken. There’s nothing.
In short, I felt empty inside and longed to see the full movie. Unfortunately, the full movie doesn’t exist.
That being said, the movie does help visualize the technology that was used in the book. It also gives a great perspective on what the “flight simulators” might have looked like and what the battle room might have looked like. As far as using the movie to teach the book, it would make a decent review and the special effects will help some students grasp the technology of Ender’s world. And if you’re worried about students watching the movie as a substitute for reading, don’t.